Early retirement -- generally defined as retiring from the traditional workplace before the retirement age of 65 -- is an idyllic-sounding notion. For most Boomers, it is also next to impossible. Sure, you'll read about those senior executives or business owners who have managed to amass enough wealth in their forties, fifties or early sixties to contemplate leaving the workplace behind. It happens -- but rarely.
Still, is early retirement a myth? Well, not necessarily. Part of it depends on exactly how you define "retirement." It may not mean stopping work altogether, but instead changing your way or working, or even your perception of work. You could, in fact, retire early from one career and start an entirely new career. Or you could find a creative way to retire early from your current job and patch together a variety of stimulating opportunities that still provide a reasonable income. The fact is, retiring early may be a realistic goal for you -- but one that cannot be achieved without a really good handle on your financial situation.
Writing for The Balance, Rebecca Lake identifies "six signs" that are legitimate indicators you may very well be in a position to retire early. They are:
- You're Debt Free
- You've Estimated Your Retirement Needs
- You've Saved for Retirement in Multiple Pots
- You've Covered Your Insurance Gaps
- Your Children Don't Rely on You Financially
- You're in a Retirement Frame of Mind
Read Rebecca's article for some valuable insight into each of these signs. You may not see all of them in your own situation, but each is worthy of some careful thought before leaping into the potential abyss of retirement.
Fortunately, I saw enough of these signs to consider early retirement. My wife and I were both marketing professionals. I owned a direct marketing agency. We decided to retire from our careers in our late fifties. We combined early retirement with a relocation from the expensive Northeast to the less expensive South. At the same time our daughter went to college -- we saved for that during our working years.
When we relocated, we decided to start a small service business together, ran it for seven years, and then sold it. It kept us busy and generated an income that was supplemented by retirement savings. Starting to draw Social Security at full retirement age helped us financially, as did going onto Medicare at age 65. Now, I'm a part-time writer, and my wife volunteers and is a caretaker for her mother. We never viewed "retirement" in the traditional sense -- to us, it was more about going through phases of life. Some would certainly define what we did as retiring early, while others might say we just transitioned into doing something different.
Retiring early may or may not be for you -- but it's really about how each of us defines the concept of early retirement.